The Rio+20 meeting is coming up in two months, bringing world leaders and over 50.000 activists and negotiators together to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Earth Summit in 1992 that changed the way the world looks at growth and development.

Described as one of the last opportunities for world leaders to meet before the Rio meeting, the Stockholm+40 conference on April 23-25 brought together ministers, NGOs, UN delegates, business leaders and local government officials from all over the world, including Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnic and UNEP Director Achim Steiner, under the heading "Partnership Forum for Sustainable Development".

Alongside the conference was the first ministerial of the new Climate and Clean Air Coalition initiated by Sweden along with the United States and others, to combat the short lived climate polluters addressed recently also by the Nordic Environment Ministers in the Svalbard Declaration.

As part of a high-level dialogue between ministers and stakeholders, Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers Halldór Ásgrímsson described the Nordic Way towards a sustainable society:

- The Nordic countries have not always been rich, which is otherwise often seen as a prerequisite for sustainable development. But we have grown rich through a combination of a strong state and individual autonomy in a society based on trust and inclusiveness, factors I also see as crucial for our future development, said Ásgrímsson as he rounded off the panel debate.

The Nordic Council of Ministers will take that message to the Rio+20 summit where the Nordic focus will be on issues like welfare and equality, and the role of the state in creating a green economy through e.g. green public procurement as well as the potential of New Nordic Food to generate a more sustainable lifestyle.

The Rio Summit of 1992 highlighted the urgent need to rethink growth, but the attention to sustainable development actually got its first boost in Stockholm in 1972 at the UN Conference on the Human Environment celebrated at Stockholm+40, which also lead to the formation of the United Nations Environment Programme.

Later on, the Brundtland Commission elaborated the concept of sustainable development to include social and economic parameters, cementing the role of the Nordic countries in the global effort to secure the future of our planet.

Swedish environment minister Lena Ek rounded off the conference by stating her firm commitment to substantial results at Rio+20.

Photo: Terje Heiestad